NEven before the tennis ball hits the red sand in Madrid on Saturday night, Ons Jabeur falls to his knees. She has just achieved something that no tennis professional from the Arab world, let alone from the African continent, has managed to do. The 27-year-old Tunisian has won a WTA 1000 tournament. In the final, she beat Jessica Pegula of the United States 7: 5, 0: 6 and 6: 2. The American did not make it easy for Jabeur, but in the end she first ran out of breath.
Jabeur was the one who had shortness of breath before the final. “I thought my heart would jump out of my chest,” she said. She so wanted to win the final, to win the title at a WTA 1000 tournament. “It was a roller coaster of emotions,” she said after the match. “I must now try to understand all this.”
After his victory, Jabeur hugged his competitor. She takes it sporty: Pegula congratulated Jabeur on Instagram and is already looking forward to the next tournament in Rome. “See you on the flight tomorrow,” she wrote under the caption to a photo from the awards ceremony, complete with a drop emoji.
With its success, Jabeur is a role model and pioneer. She wants to open doors, be an ambassador, motivate young girls and women in her home country to do the same. “I do not play only for myself,” she said in Madrid. “I play for my country, for the Arab world, for the African continent.”
Soon number seven in the world
Jabeur has often been the first. When she won the WTA tournament in Birmingham last year, she was the first player in the Arab world to do so. The premiere in the quarter-finals at Wimbledon followed a little later, since October she has been in the top ten in the world rankings. Starting on Monday, she will be the new number seven.
In her home country, the pressure on the tennis player increases, at least for every match she wins. Jabeur, whose variable play is a bit reminiscent of Ashleigh Barty, who recently retired, has long been no longer happy with a Grand Slam quarterfinal. In the current clay court season, she has now won twelve matches, and since the beginning of the year, there have already been 20 victories on different surfaces.
She is supported by her husband Karim Kamoun, who is also her fitness trainer. Occasionally he gets her out of the lethargy that almost got her off tennis when she was young. Many things were too exhausting for her at the time, Jabeur said in an interview with the WTA: the training, the tight schedule, the limited privacy. Her mother Samira then warned her to always make the best of herself.
The self-confessed football fan Jabeur listened. Now she is also one of the favorites for the French Open in Paris. The second Grand Slam tournament of the season begins on May 22nd.